Day: October 25, 2010

How to catch the ‘jihadi bug’

“[Scott Atran’s] Talking to the Enemy is recommendable not just for its vivid insights into the motivation of terrorists, but also for its study of Islamic radicalisation and the anthropology of religion in general. It is worth reading for its demolishment of many of the simplistic ideas put forward by self-declared “scientific atheists” such as Sam Harris, Steven Weinberg and Richard Dawkins, who see religion as the root of intolerance and campaign with missionary zeal for its eradication.

Dawkins has argued, for example, that suicide bombers are brainwashed in religious schools. Yet none of the 9/11 hijackers or the Madrid train-bombers attended a religious school, and the one London Underground bomber who did so attended only briefly. Indeed evidence shows that in Muslim communities the deeper a person’s religious scholarship, the less likely he or she is to be involved in jihadist activities.

The suggestion by Harris and others that the world would be less violent without religion – and especially without Islam – also looks hollow when you consider the crimes against humanity committed by atheists. Prior to 2001, for instance, one of the most prolific dispensers of suicide terrorism was the secular Tamil Tigers. In trying to understand, or predict, terrorist activity, it makes scientific sense to look beyond religion, such as to the social dynamics of particular friendship networks and the recruitment strategies of jihadist organisations whose agendas are usually avowedly political.” (via CultureLab)